The Ultimate Guide to Tokyo: Modern Super-City
By Catherine Pawasarat
When shogun Ieyasu Tokugawa established his military government in Edo in 1590, it was a swampy backwater. But an ever-growing population of vassals and samurai, plus the artisans, merchants, farmers and other laborers to serve them, helped Edo blossom into the country's powerful de facto capital. The official capital, Kyoto, still boasted the imperial family, but the emperor's impotence against the might of the shogun had Kyoto gathering political and military dust.
When the shogunate was toppled in 1868, the restored emperor promptly moved east to Edo and renamed it Tokyo, meaning "eastern capital." Today, ranks of businesspeople have replaced the shogunate's samurai. But their spirit of determination to prosper and "get ahead" may still be the same.
After being razed by the 1923 Great Kanto earthquake and US air raids in the '40s, Tokyoites were eager to rebuild in a modern, western fashion; thus Tokyo is truly a 21st century megalopolis, with little of traditional Japan outside of its museums. One memento of the old city, however, is the urban layout, designed to prevent enemy forces from storming the shogun's castle. To you and me, this means twisted, narrow, and illogical: remember to always have a good map to your destination, including the address and phone number.
What is today the Tokyo metropolitan area originally consisted of numerous smaller villages that became engulfed in the yawning reach of modern urbanity. Hence many areas in Tokyo have distinctly different feels to them. When you want to get the flavor of your business partners' home ground, or know where to go when it's time to unwind, let this guide give you some insights into this extraordinary city of the future.
Near the political heart of the city, Akasuka is known for the city's best hotels, embassies, foreign companies, and exclusive nightlife, with geishas and bar hostesses catering to the elite. The Suntory Museum of Art (3470-1073, open 10-5 T-Su, until 7pm on Fri.) has an exceptional collection of traditional Japanese decorative arts. Yugentei (3582-8989) is a classy Korean (yaki-niku) restaurant that also appeals to Japanese sensibilities.
Akihabara is the country's electronics capital, full of cutting-edge technology and big discounts. Many of the larger stores have tax-free export models for sale, but remember that sometimes products may still be cheaper in your home country. Check the voltage.
If you're looking for upscale restaurants and exclusive international boutiques, head for Aoyama, the fashion center. The side streets offer excellent international cuisine, and walking along the shady Omote-sando to trendy and youthful Harajuku is one of the most pleasant strolls to be had in Tokyo. There the Oriental Bazaar (3400-3933, 9:30-6:30, closed Thurs.) offers good souvenir shopping at reasonable prices. Or look for one-of-a-kind antiques to take home with you on Kotto-dori, across from the giant Kinokuniya bookstore (good for international magazines). In southern (Minami) Aoyama, hear world-class jazz at the Blue Note Tokyo (5485-0088, www.bluenote.co.jp). If you get the set lunch or dinner at the classy Aoyama Club (3797-9500), you can use the golf range and swimming pool. Zassouya (5410-3408) is a stylish restaurant serving healthy home-style Korean cuisine.
In the Ginza, haute couture meets swank. A concentration of fine department stores is flanked by chic boutiques, art galleries, exclusive restaurants and nightclubs, all with a healthy dose of neon. Imagine how much it would cost to buy the earth under your feet: this the most expensive real estate in the world. Walk down tree-lined Namiki-dori, past Gucci and Louis Vuitton, or go down Harumi-dori Avenue to the famous Kabuki-za Theater, built in 1925 and home to Japan's most dramatic traditional theater (shows twice daily, 3541-3131).
If you have any work with the central government to be done, you'll find yourself in Kasumigaseki. Home to the Diet and ministry buildings and a population of bureaucrats, there aren't many other reasons to go there.
Modeled after the Station Centraal in Amsterdam and one of the few buildings left standing after the war, Tokyo Station is the locus for the shinkansen bullet trains and all major JR train lines. It's also where the Marunouchi business district begins. The center for most major trade and financial institutions, this area also encompasses the Imperial Palace: For joggers and health walkers, the palace grounds are one of the best places in the city.
Roppongi is where Tokyo's nightlife hits warp speed, and the clubs, restaurants, and bars here run the entire range from high-class to seedy. The French restaurant Tatou Tokyo (5411-4433) is sophisticated and sumptuous, while the French haute cuisine at Vincent (3589.0035) is lush, yet relaxed. Velfarre (3402.8000) is a dramatic mega-club billing itself as the "leading dance scene in Tokyo," but it's only open until midnight. Salsa Sudada (5474-8806) is across the street for those who love to dance Latin-style till 5am. The Lexington Queen (3401-1661) club packs in about 400 beautiful people on weekends.
The new Bit Valley -- the Japanese Silicon Valley - centers on Shibuya, now home to many burgeoning internet businesses (see www.bitvalley.org for details). Sandwiched between Aoyama and Harajuku, Shibuya is famed for its disaffected youths, trying to outdo each other in the height of their platform shoes and blondness of hair. The izakaya Isshin (3442-0224) is adored by Tokyo's cuisine cognoscenti for its authentic Japanese cuisine. Sasagin (5454.3715) is eminently popular for its extensive gallery of fine sakes and superb menu to match. The opulent restaurant Tableaux (5489.2201) offers original Euro-Asian fare.
Two million people pass through Shinjuku station everyday, and that sets the tone for this jumble of a business, entertainment, and shopping area. When you're tired of the crowds and neon, escape to the bountiful space and quietude of Shinjuku Koen Park. Ca va Ca va (3353.4650) is a sophisticated whiskey bar for connoisseurs. In western Shinjuku is Yuuan (5322.6427), a refined restaurant serving the freshest seasonal cuisine.
Getting Down to Business
With the world's second-largest economy, doing business in Japan is a must for every international corporation.
Not that it's easy. Especially with the Japanese custom of honne and tatemae, one's public and private faces. "For Japanese, these two are completely different. These days, people realize they have to change their tatemae, their public face, but they don't want to change their honne," laments Alex Tsukada, president of Alex Tsukada International Ltd., a global executive search firm.
Remember that business relationships often hinge on the harmony and trust; as a result, your Japanese counterparts will probably take some time to get to know you before you can cut any deals. "Japanese don't give a clear "yes" or "no," so be patient. Don't expect a quick response or definite answer. Think long-term," says Chung Mong Yoon, president of Fairfield, a Tokyo-based human resources firm.
Though most Japanese haven't caught onto power breakfasts or business lunches, socializing over drinks with colleagues after work is an important part of this getting-to-know-you process, and a way of getting past the public face to get to know the private person. Don't be dismayed if your Japanese colleagues get extremely drunk and display somewhat outrageous behavior - relax, enjoy, and get back to business as usual the next morning. It is customary to allow your host to pay.
To help your company find its footing in the Japanese market, first contact your country's embassy or consulate to find out about any special programs it may have. The following organizations and their websites (most come in Japanese and English) will give you a good idea about how to find your way around Tokyo's concrete jungle.
Keidanren's homepage offers an excellent introduction to all different aspects of corporate Japan. www.keidanren.or.jp Be sure to look at its "Access to Japan" page, listing Japanese companies looking for trading partners, procurement policy guidelines and import promotion. www.keidanren.or.jp/A2J/
* The Trade Tie-Up Promotion Program by the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) mediates online between Japanese and overseas corporations hoping to find suitable business partners, gives Japanese market outlines, and surveys of market access conditions. www.jetro.go.jp/
* Japan's Chamber of Commerce has an information network that promotes international trade and publishes indices of Japanese companies looking for foreign trade partners and vice versa: www.jcci.or.jp/ (Japanese)
* The Tokyo Chamber of Commerce's international division (3283-7522/3) has staff who speak English, but not Hangol. www.tokyo-cci.or.jp/
The Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) has a comprehensive webpage, look here to find out which department you need to talk to. www.miti.go.jp/index.html
Success Stories: Japan is exclusively dedicated to helping non-Japanese companies and executives in any industry compete more effectively in Japan. www.successstories.com/index.htm
KOTRA, the Korea Trade & Investment Promotion Agency (3214-6951) provides some support for Korean companies in Japan, including introducing them to potential Japanese trading partners and helping with exhibitions. www.kotra.or.jp
KOFEC, the Korea Federation of Companies (5472-2641) works to improve conditions in Japan for Korean companies. www.kofec.or.jp/japan/
The Japan Small and Medium Enterprise Corporation(JASMEC) is a governmental body supporting SMEs. Can search their website for potential Japanese partner companies, and find information on APEC workshops, international exchange conferences and other overseas programs. www.jasmec.go.jp/
Under a MITI directive, the Japan Business Center (043-297-3131) assists small and medium-sized foreign firms during their first six months to two years of operation in Japan. www.jbc.gr.jp/2index.htm
* The Asia Advisory Service K.K (3221-6140) provides consulting, market research, etc. and operates the Japan Business Center. www.jbc.gol.com/english/aas-e.html
* JapanAccess has links to major Japanese companies in various industries, government offices, media links, and maps of major cities: www.japan-access.com/japan.html
* IBJ Securities' excellent information portal covering all aspects of finance in Japan: www.ibjs.co.jp/e/res_links/index.html
Johogen, put together by the EU-Japan Centre for Industrial Cooperation, is touted as "the ultimate business information guide" for Japan. www.eu.japan.co.jp/joho/johogen.html The Stanford Guide to Japan Information Resources, presented by the US-Japan Technology Management Center, tells you where to find the information you need. http://fuji.stanford.edu/jguide/
* The Japan Information Network (in English), has statistics on just about everything Japanese. www.jinjapan.org/stat/
* See NTT's Japan Window for extensive information on Japanese business, government, entertainment, etc. www.jwindow.net/index.html
Getting Around: Transportation
After landing in the New Tokyo International Airport at Narita, change some money into yen, and take a limousine bus or shuttle service to any of Tokyo's major hotels. They'll take between one and two hours, depending on traffic. The Narita Express (N'EX) train is faster (less than an hour) and more comfortable, and stops at Tokyo Station and Shinjuku. Opt for the deluxe Green Car.
With the same traffic-jammed streets of any major capital, Tokyo's amazingly efficient and comprehensive train and subway system is usually the fastest and most convenient way to get around. Get (and hold on to) a map from your hotel, and if at all possible, try to avoid the rush hour(s) stampede (7:30-9:30am and 5-7pm). The JR Yamanote line circles central Tokyo above ground, and it is within this sphere that most visitors will find everything they want or need.
Trains stop shortly after midnight, when you'll have to take a taxi -- fares start at 680 yen for 2 km. During normal hours there's no tipping, though late-night competition for taxis means it is not unusual to pay double or even triple the fare. Hold up two or three fingers to indicate your willingness to do this, or you may be passed over for another customer. The rear left passenger door opens and closes automatically; opening it yourself may invite shouts from the driver. It's not unusual for taxi drivers to stop to ask directions.
When you head back to Narita airport for departure, reserve the airport limousine from your hotel several days in advance; each hotel only has an allotted number of seats.
-Keep in mind that banks are only open from 9 am to 3 pm. Don't count on being able to find an ATM that gives you cash, unless your hotel has confirmed one nearby. While major credit cards are becoming more common, many restaurants and shops still do not accept them. Traveler's checks are even more unusual - cash these at your hotel cashier, where the rates are comparable to a bank. In Japan it is common and reasonably safe to carry large amounts of cash on your person, but take the same precautions that you would in any big city, especially on the trains.
-There's no tipping in Japan. Hotels and some fine restaurants automatically add a 10-15% service charge to your bill.
-With the explosive popularity of cellular phones, public phones are getting fewer and far between - so rent your own, through your hotel.
Down Time: Tokyo's Best Hotels
If you really want to treat yourself like royalty, stay at the Hotel Seiyo Ginza (3535-1111) in Ginza. This small luxury hotel has some of the best personalized service in the world, according to Gourmet magazine. In-room fax on request, modem lines in some rooms. Personal secretarial service, business center, fitness room. The Italian Ristorante Attore has received an award from the Italian government. www.seiyo-ginza.com/
* The gem of the New Otani Hotel (3265-1111) in Akasaka is its extensive, 400-year old garden, which once belonged to the Tokugawa regent. Is designed for the business traveler, with excellent business services, including translator and secretarial services and A/V resources. Some rooms have views of the imperial palace or of Mt. Fuji. www.newotani.co.jp/tokyo/
Centrally located, the Hotel Okura (3582-0111) boasts excellent executive Services Salon, including mobile phone rental, bi-lingual business card printing, courier and interpretation/translation services, and A/V equipment rental. www.okura.com/tokyo.html
The Imperial Hotel (3504-1111) overlooks Hibiya park and palace gardens, all within walking distance of the Marunouchi business district, government offices, and the Ginza. The beautifully-appointed main dining room offers award-winning French food. www.imperialhotel.co.jp/english/menu.html
* The Akasaka Prince Hotel (3234-1111) is also in the city center. Some rooms have internet access, fax service, and a trouser press, while guests have access to a fitness center, spa (with massage services), an indoor pool and numerous restaurants, bars, and lounges. www.princehotels.co.jp/ akasaka-e/index.html
Interpreting / Business Services
International Communications Specialists, Inc. (3263-6881) www.ics-inc.co.jp Japan Convention Services (3508-1215) www.convention.co.jp Simul International Inc. (5324-3100) www.simul.co.jp/others.html Inter Group Inc. (3423-1600) www.intergroup.co.jp/eng/index.html
Space Space is at a premium in Tokyo, but there are two good office facilities set up for companies just starting out in Japan.
* An unbeatable deal is the FREE office space (including consulting, PC, telephone, fax and copy services) at JETRO's Business Support Center (5562-3131) in the Akasaka Twin Tower near Tokyo Bay. http://www.jetro.go.jp/
The Japan Business Center (043-297-3131) has all the facilities of an executive business center, including reception services, and fee-based translation, consulting, introduction services, etc. It's a 30-min. train ride from Tokyo station. http://www.jbc.gr.jp/2index.htm
Kicking Back: Leisure
For club and art events while you're in Tokyo, check out the English-language magazines TokyoQ www.tokyoq.com,, Tokyo Journal http://www.tokyo.to ), or Tokyo Classified www.tokyoclassified.com.
* The best museum in the city is arguably the Tokyo National Museum in Ueno Park (3822-1111), containing the largest collection of Japanese art in the world. The Main Gallery and its varied works will hold the greatest interest for most people, while the Gallery of Horyuji (open only on Thursdays, weather permitting) and its 1000 year-old pieces from the Horyuji Temple in Nara will appeal to people more interested in Japanese culture's mainland roots. Open 9:30-5 T-Sun., till 8pm on Fri. from Apr to Sept.
Golf is terribly popular even around Tokyo; ask your hotel for nearby courses. For serious aficionados, Success Stories publishes a guide to nearly 90 golf courses around Tokyo where non-Japanese non-members can play. http://www.successstories.com/index.htm
* Don't miss the January, May and September sumo tournaments at Kokugikan Hall Arena, 1-3-28 Yokoami, Sumida-ku, phone 3623-5111
* Nikko is home to the elaborately ornamental Toshogu shrine and the mausoleum of shogun Ieyasu Tokugawa, who established the shogunate in Edo. Two hours from downtown Tokyo, it is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the country and well worth a day trip. Ask your hotel for details.